USL Series Part II: Explanations
In conjunction with Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer, MLS Talk and the Kartik Report present the USL at a Crossroads series.
Part two is here.
Some excerpts with commentary.
Nike was not used to being in the business of owning a league and to make matters worse, they soon found out they had overpaid for the UK brand, some reports saying up to twice the amount it was worth. The man who orchestrated the deal for Nike was soon gone and the footwear giant began reassessing their whole company as they moved through the recession of 2008/09.
This is critical to understanding everything that happened with Nike and USL subsequently.
In March of 2009, Aaron Davidson, President of Miami FC and vice president of Traffic Sports US [who owns Miami FC], admitted he was leading a team owners association in a move to “restructure the USL in a way that would elevate the league and raise the franchise values of its teams.”
It is worth noting that Traffic Sports relationship with the FAs in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Barbados and T&T has allowed Miami FC and TOA to get publicity at USMNT games on the road in these venues. But that Traffic seems to have less pull in the United States than they do in the rest of the CONCACAF region, thus Miami FC plays largely in a vacuum locally and that may only be solved by elevating the overall profile of the league.
Davidson said one of the issues the league owners had with USL is the lack of direction and influence the teams themselves had on the league’s direction. He said there was great frustration amongst the owners for lack of marketing and support of franchises.
This frustration grew as time wore on. The success of Montreal and Puerto Rico in the CONCACAF Champions League was seemingly lost by the league as was a the opportunity to promote the sport and the brand in large markets which saw in upsurge in interest due to the growth of international soccer in these markets.
The TOA wanted a league that was team owner controlled but were willing to negotiate with the league. The teams felt they needed more representation in the league office in decisions that directly affected the franchises.
The TOA was the first really organized effort of USL-1 owners to make changes to the league ownership and structure, but individual owners most notbaly those of the Atlanta Silverbacks and Montreal Impact had voiced similar concerns for years.
The Atlanta Silverbacks were the lone team that dropped out. Numerous reason were stated for dropping from the league. One was the economy and another that MLS was rumored to be possibly moving into the Atlanta market and team ownerfelt he couldn’t compete. In addition, it was said that Jerkunica had numerous disagreements with the league’s front office and was frustrated.
The Silverbacks per our reporting never had any intention of simply quitting but decided to suspend waiting for changes from the league. The club had built its own Soccer Specific Stadium, and had fielded a woman’s team and PDL team, in one of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. They were in many ways a model for how a football club should be run in the United States, but had numerous disagreements with the USL office in Tampa.
The move also meant the team would need to find a new stadium. Cleveland State’s 2,000-seat Bearcat Stadium, which seats 5,000.was a happy home to many City Star supporters. USL-1 rules state teams must play in 5000 seat stadiums. So the team moved to Bedford’s
This was a critical issue. Cleveland City had developed a rabid following and an amazing feeling at Krenzel Stadium. Being promoted from a lower league to a higher division is difficult enough, but the stadium move cost the club money in rent and a true home field advantage.
Part III tomorrow.